The provocative quote of the week goes to, Charles Spurgeon: “Be a good hater.”
The statement, “be a good hater” is a challenge to resist evil (James 4L7). To resist the morality of the tyrant or the ‘crowd which has no hands’ (Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth)1
In context, it means: to abhor evil: to regard it with extreme repugnance. [In Latin, “abhor” is Odium: with hostility; “repugnance”: resist, be an adversary of evil.]
Our present age has an almost absolute fear of hate, yet most would agree that “let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good“, is an admirable thing. One clear example which proves this is, the often irrational fear of, and hatred thrown at Donald Trump.
When discussing hating evil, clinging to the good, Calvin prefers to use the term “turning away”, saying it ‘corresponds better with the opposite clause, where Paul bids us to exercise kindness’ (Commentary on Romans 12:9)
This is displayed in the actions of real social justice advocates [by which I don’t mean the average internet variety, Social Justice Warriors]. Real social justice advocates lay their claims against injustice on the very premise that an evil; an injustice; something to be abhorred; something repugnant has really taken place.
The problem arises when the basis for those claims are centred on the ever shifting sands of subjective relativism. Akin to the great violation in the garden, which sought to jettison God; removing the Creator from His rightful place, putting the creature at the centre of where, what and how that creature derives its definitions, and subsequent redefinitions, of what good and evil is.
Once fluidity of truth is proclaimed and accepted. Competing “truths” seek dominance. Humanity becomes the primary source and decider of what is good and evil.
From there lies can hide hatred, and power can be gained by it.
“whoever hates disguises himself with his lips, and harbours deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart though his hatred be covered with deception.” (Proverbs, 26:24-26)
Subjectivism allows hatred to be hidden. For example, tolerance is given to the “truth” of Marxists, the “truth” of White Power Neo-Nazis, or the “truth” of the Islamists. They force compliance to their ideas of good and evil, through fear, hatred, and bloodshed all behind a veil of half-truths and manipulative propaganda. Each “truth” is to be respected, even though it hides a love for hatred, and as a result, contains a hatred of truth.
The ultimate conclusion is a clash of competing untruths, all paraded as truth. The consequences being, that lies and falsehood come to rule, where truth and facts once did.
On the other hand, hate can be a positive. It becomes this when it is accompanied by God’s Word on what good and evil are, along with honesty, humility, mercy, and justice. Hate in this sense is restrained pathos or righteous anger. This is pathos seeking to end the cause of pathayma (suffering), which is held within the limits of both ethos and logos.
To hate evil is to cling to that which is good. Any hate which doesn’t cleave to that which is good leads us towards that which is evil. Thus hating evil is not a sin because the act has a just cause. Hatred of evil is grounded in God’s, and not man’s, definition of what good and evil are. It is grounded in the precedent, criteria, and command which comes from the ‘fatherly good-will’ of God (Karl Barth).
Morality drawn straight from the whims of the human heart is the subjective morality of the tyrant. Subjective morality becomes immorality the further it disconnects itself from the external Word and Spirit of God. This is because morality is held captive to the subjective truth of a tyrannical ungodly king, who acting on the mood of the moment, bans all unauthorised morality from his or her kingdom.
This unauthorised morality is anything other than the one he or she seeks to own, in order to grow their grip on power. One Biblical example of this is King Saul’s eventual hatred of David. Saul disconnects himself from God’s fatherly rule and issues his own rule from his own subjective sense of good and evil.
It’s true, as C.S Lewis wrote, that ‘hatred obscures all distinctions.’2 But what I think C.S Lewis is getting at with this, is any hatred that exists by itself and of itself, obscures all distinctions.
One way to understand this is to say that we need to be open to being challenged about the things we intensely dislike, otherwise we’re just lying to ourselves and others. Again we take Solomon’s words and apply them, ‘the one who conceals hatred has lying lips’ (Proverbs 10:18)
For the Christian, the ultimate grounding for hating evil isn’t hate, it’s love. Love motivates the Christian to speak out and proclaim the salvation brought to both the oppressed and oppressor alike.
This means continuing to act on the gifts that God gives, such as good government, the ability to teach, discern and speak in a gracious way to a world hellbent on blurring distinctions, by worshiping and legitimising confusion about what truth is. One of the first steps towards achieving this is applying a better understanding of the distinction between hating evil and being an actual “hater”.
Hating hate, and not evil is the great twisted and misleading double negative of our age.
Nowhere in the bible does God command His people to hate, hate. What we read is the imperative to abhor evil and cling to what is good.
This raises to initial questions:
1. How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate and haters?
2. How can we keep the imperative to ‘hate what is evil’ from being misused and abused?
When we apply to being a “good hater” to the Nazis, what is meant is that we hate the ideology of Nazism, not the German people who identified as Nazis. What is hated is the evil in the ideology that rules over the person and in the person, as if it were a lord without a Lord. The distinction between the German and the Nazi, if measured by Lewis’ criteria isn’t distorted.
Therefore, Charles Spurgeon’s ‘’be a good hater’’ is someone who acts in Christian love. Since love speaks both a “yes” and a “no”, to hate evil is to cling to the good; standing with, and in, God’s own definition and clear “no” to evil.
“When you hate the man’s sins, you are not to hate him, but to love the sinner, even as Christ loved sinners and came to seek and save them. When you hate a man’s false doctrine, you are still to love the man and hate his doctrine even out of love to his soul, with an earnest desire that he may be reclaimed from his error and brought into the way of truth.” (Spurgeon, 1858 Righteous Hatred)
It’s right then to conclude, that any Christian who falls in with the ‘untruth of the crowd’ when it comes to Donald Trump, may find themselves falling into hate that is absent of the rule of Christian love. In this context, the person fails to see that ‘the sinner hasn’t stopped being God’s creature’ (Karl Barth CD 3:2, p.31).
God’s grace finds the distinction between the love for the sinner and hatred of the sin. God moves in love towards the sinner with this particular order in mind. Barth again brings home the point, ‘if it does not spring from grace, it does not lead to grace.’ (ibid, p.36)
God’s grace governs the outcome and reorders, hate the sin, love the sinner.3 Love for the sinner becomes the primary. Hatred of sin, secondary.4
Just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
“‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’” (Life Together)
None of this means being slothful in our response to injustice. What it means is letting authentic Christian love, not the untruth of the crowd, govern that response. So it is that we return to the imperative, let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good.
In this sense, “be a good hater.”
- Kierkegaard S. 1847 The Crowd is Untruth sourced from CCEL.org
- C.S Lewis, 1955 On Science Fiction in Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy & Short Stories
- See Bonhoeffer, D. 1954 Life Together p.111
- see Barth, K. 1960 Man as a Problem of Dogmatics, CD. 3:2 p.32 Hendrickson Publishers here Barth discusses the primacy of grace and the secondary place of sin in God’s attitude towards man.